ISORG's Flexible Organic Photodetector Sensors Offer Numerous Advantages to Key Markets


Recent printed electronics (PE) conferences such as LOPE-C 2011 (Large Area, Organic and Printed Electronics Convention) 2011 and Printed Electronics Europe 2011 have provided a forum for PE manufacturers to showcase their innovative products.

One item that drew much interest is the Magic Pad, developed by ISORG, or Image Sensor Organic, in cooperation with CEA-LITEN. A flexible organic photo-detector array demonstrator, Magic Pad has the capability to transform glass and plastic into smart surfaces for applications ranging from games, interactive packaging, home appliances, consumer electronics and industrial displays.

It should not come as much of a surprise that ISORG would create an eye-catching display, as it is partnered with CEA LITEN, the French Laboratory of Innovation for New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials, one of the major research center in organic electronics technology.

In addition, ISORG's leadership team has developed much expertise in this field. For example, Jean-Yves Gomez, ISORG's CEO, previously held the position of group vice president in STMicroelectronics, and managed three divisions for consumer electronics products (Wireless, Digital TV and Imaging). He also managed an industrial company (VITechnology) specialized in optical inspection. Emmanuel Guérineau is an experienced CFO in the high tech industry, and now serves as ISORG's finance and programs director. Laurent Jamet, responsible for ISORG's business development, worked for Gomez at STMicroelectronics before joining CEA LITEN.

"ISORG was created in May 2010 as a spin-off of the Grenoble CEA Nanomaterials Department by three founders having strong high tech industry experience," said Jamet. "I worked for Jean Yves in my previous position in STMicroelectronics as business development director and managed new technology development for my main customer, Nokia.

"In 2007, we were involved with CEA in a new technology development for printed and organic electronics called Printronics (for organic transistors)," Jamet added. "We identified the business potential for organic photodetector and large area image sensor. Our previous positions in high tech, imaging sensors and new technology development gave us valuable experience for this business initiative and market analysis. First prototypes of organic photodetectors (OPD) were developed with CEA in summer 2009 to validate the technical performances versus the target applications. I joined CEA beginning 2010 to create ISORG as the first startup of printed electronics at CEA."

By developing sensors on plastic foils or glass substrates, to transform plastic and glass into smart surfaces able to see and observe, Jamet noted that ISORG creates numerous technological advantages:
- Large area sensing, typically surfaces of 320mm x 380mm (size of plastic foils, which is ideal to observe motions over a surface (user interface), fluids over a surface (industrial sensors), large area image capturing (x-ray medical imaging) or document scanning.
- Breakthrough mechanical integration thanks to unique properties of flexibility (for plastic sensors), lightweight and thin (typically less than 300um). For example, ISORG's sensors can be integrated in tubes with circular shapes, or displays or large area paper surfaces. ISORG is also working on transparent sensors.
- Product cost optimization, thanks to high throughput manufacturing processes with large area printing and patterning equipment at air ambient conditions, with a few process steps (less than 10). "These solutions are to be compared to today silicon technologies which require high temperature and vacuum manufacturing," Jamet added.

Add to these the cost and environmental advantages of its technology, and ISORG ultimately has developed a strong story to tell.

"Our solutions also enable low development costs compared to silicon technologies, which require high costs for optical masks," Jamet said. "Therefore, we can address small volumes products and customers. Product development time is also significantly reduced compared to silicon technologies, which require several weeks. Also, our technology is green, based on organic chemistry materials (carbon-based).

"Today's technologies are unable to offer such properties for mechanical integration," Jamet concluded. "Our technology is not competing with today's technologies. "It enables new product concepts impossible to design with traditional solutions."

ISORG sees opportunities for its sensors in many fields. Industrial markets for fields ranging from pharmaceuticals to the water industry are a promising area for sensors, which could be used for object shape and form recognition and smart metering industry. The medical market is another area where organic photodetectors could be applied for x-ray imaging.

Consumer electronics is another wide-ranging area, including sensors for interactive printed media and packaging as well as sensors for home appliances. ISORG will be able to utilize its innovative sensor design with slight modifications for all of these markets.

"For these different markets, the technology is basically the same," Jamet added, "Differentiation of sensors is obtained by simple design modifications (shape and form change)."

As the PE industry is still young and emerging, there are very few established industrial players. This gives ISORG a head start in the field of organic and printed photodetectors and image sensors.

"ISORG is the pioneering company worldwide, uniquely positioned as an industrial company developing complete solutions for a large range of markets," Jamet pointed out. "There are very few other activities worldwide for organic photodetectors outside of R&D organizations. No other company has moved forward to develop an industrial manufacturing line. Our pilot manufacturing in Grenoble will be operational by the end of this year, and we plan the first volumes for customers before the end of 2012.

"Our second differentiating factor is the competence and experience of the team, which includes expertise in electronics systems, imaging sensors, new technology business development, organic material and printing techniques," Jamet added. "Very few companies offer this capability to develop complete solutions. Most companies are focusing on material, equipment or printing basic functionality devices such as organic photovoltaics or OLED, compared to more complex products such as image sensors."

Bringing its technology to the production phase is a critical step. Jamet said that ISORG is using a variety of different printing techniques, such as screen printing, slot die coating and flexography, with the material deposition technique selected depending on a number of factors, including organic material characteristics and image sensor pixel size.

Jamet noted that ISORG is drawing strong interest from throughout the business spectrum, as companies look at ways to utilize ISORG's technology for applications long thought to be impossible to manufacture.

"We have received very positive feedback from different customers, from big international groups, small and medium-size companies," Jamet said. "Most of them contacted ISORG because they identified our technology as the enabler for new and innovative products that were impossible to design with traditional technologies. They consider printed electronics as opportunity for new business development.

"Our expectations for printed electronics market are that printed electronics is used by many industry having not used electronics, such as plasturgy and packaging, because of different reasons such as difficult mechanical integration," Jamet concluded.

By David Savastano
Printed Electronics Now